The Permanent Collection at the Museum Ludwig

Eu­rope’s most ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of Pop Art, the third-largest Pi­cas­so col­lec­tion in the world, one of the most im­por­tant col­lec­tions of Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­ism, out­s­tand­ing works from the Rus­sian avant-garde, and an ex­cel­lent col­lec­tion on the his­to­ry of pho­tog­ra­phy: To­day the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is home to one of the most im­por­tant col­lec­tions of twen­ti­eth- and twen­ty-first-cen­tu­ry art in the world. And, un­like roy­al col­lec­tions, it owes its ex­is­tence to the ex­traor­d­i­nary ded­i­ca­tion of pri­vate ci­t­izens. The corn­er­s­tone for the found­ing of the mu­se­um was laid in 1976 with a do­na­tion of 350 works of mod­ern art to the ci­ty of Cologne by the col­lec­tors Peter and Irene Lud­wig.

The Haubrich Col­lec­tion: Mod­er­nism and Ex­pres­sion­ism

When Josef Haubrich gave his art col­lec­tion to the ci­ty of Cologne just af­ter the end of World War II in 1946, it was seen by the peo­ple of Cologne as a mes­sage from a bet­ter world. Af­ter they were long be­lieved to be lost, paint­ings by Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­ists and other mod­er­nist artists who were per­se­cut­ed dur­ing the war and deemed “de­gen­er­ate” sud­den­ly be­longed to the ci­t­izens of the ci­ty. Much lat­er, this would form the corn­er­s­tone for the col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, and thus one of the most im­por­tant mu­se­ums for mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art in Eu­rope.

This do­na­tion from the Cologne lawy­er is now known as the at Haubrich Col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig. It in­cludes cen­tral works of Ex­pres­sion­ism and the New Ob­jec­tiv­i­ty, with mas­ter­pie­ces such as Ot­to Dix’s Por­trait of Dr. Hans Koch (1921) and Ernst Lud­wig Kirch­n­er’s Hal­bakt mit Hut (1911) as well as works by Max Beck­mann, Marc Cha­gall, Erich Heck­el, Karl Sch­midt-Rottluff, Au­gust Macke, Hein­rich Ho­er­le, Wil­helm Lehm­bruck, and Pau­la Mod­er­sohn-Beck­er.

A Pop Art Col­lec­tion for Cologne: The Found­ing of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig

Ex­act­ly 30 years lat­er, another spec­tac­u­lar do­na­tion to the ci­ty of Cologne caused a sen­sa­tion and led to the found­ing of Mu­se­um Lud­wig as an in­de­pen­dent in­sti­tu­tion: in 1976, Peter and Irene Lud­wig do­nat­ed their unique col­lec­tion of art from the 1960s and 1970s to the ci­ty, in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous mas­ter­pie­ces of Amer­i­can Pop Art, on the con­di­tion that the ci­ty build a mu­se­um for the new col­lec­tion. In 1986, the build­ing de­signed by the ar­chi­tects Peter Bus­mann and God­fried Haber­er be­tween the cathe­dral, the Rhine, and the Haupt­bahn­hof was opened. (More about the his­to­ry of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig

Since the mid-1960s, Peter and Irene Lud­wig had been de­vot­ed col­lec­tors of Amer­i­can Pop Art, which was still rel­a­tive­ly un­known and rev­o­lu­tio­nary in Ger­many at the time and on­ly be­gan to at­tract at­ten­tion from the broad­er public with doc­u­men­ta 4 in Kas­sel. In ad­di­tion to Roy Licht­en­stein’s fa­mous MMaybe – A Girl’s Pic­ture (1965) and Claes Ol­d­en­burg’s Soft Wash­s­tand from the same year, Tom Wes­sel­mann’s Great Amer­i­can Nude No. 98 (1967) be­came part of the Lud­wigs’ col­lec­tion af­ter be­ing fea­tured at doc­u­men­ta.

To­day the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is home to the largest col­lec­tion of Amer­i­can Pop Art out­side the Unit­ed States. In ad­di­tion to the afore­men­tioned works, the col­lec­tion in­cludes nu­mer­ous im­por­tant works by Roy Licht­en­stein, Andy Warhol, Claes Ol­d­en­burg, James Rosen­quist, Robert Rauschen­berg, and Jasper Johns

Pab­lo Pi­cas­so

The col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig can­not be ad­e­qu­ate­ly de­scribed with­out men­tion­ing the works by the ex­cep­tio­n­al artist Pab­lo Pi­cas­so. Thanks to three do­na­tions from Peter and Irene Lud­wig, Cologne is now home to the third-largest Pi­cas­so col­lec­tion af­ter Paris and Barcelo­na. This in­cludes not on­ly paint­ings from all the artist’s cre­a­tive pe­ri­ods such as Har­le­quin with Fold­ed Hands (1923) and Wo­m­an with Ar­ti­choke (1941), but al­so nu­mer­ous ce­ram­ics and sculp­tures such as the orig­i­nal plas­ter casts of the Wo­m­an with Pram (1950) and the monu­men­tal Tête de femme (Do­ra Maar) (1941). The fact that Pi­cas­so val­ued draw­ing and print­mak­ing so high­ly within his oeu­vre through­out his life is al­so ap­par­ent in the col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig: it is the on­ly public in­sti­tu­tion to have all three of the mas­ter’s ma­jor se­ries of prints: Suite Vol­lard (1930–37), Suite 345 (1968), and Suite 156 (1970–71), along with nu­mer­ous other works on pa­per.

Kaz­imir Male­vich, Lyubov Popo­va, Olexan­dra Ex­ter ...

Since the late 1970s, Peter and Irene Lud­wig bought art that used to be called "Rus­sian Avant-Garde," – works of Cubo-Fu­turism, Supre­ma­tism, and Con­struc­tivis­mus. They were do­nat­ed to the Mu­se­um Lud­wig in 2011 and are now one of the largest col­lec­tions in the West. The paint­ing are ex­per­i­ments in form and col­or that dis­solve con­ven­tio­n­al re­al­i­ty. Cre­at­ed in Mos­cow, Saint Peters­burg, Kyiv, and Kharkiv, they re­flect the tran­si­tio­n­al pe­ri­od be­tween 1905 and 1930. Artists such as Na­talia Goncharo­va, Mikhail Lari­onov, Alexan­der Rod­schenko and Kaz­imir Male­vich be­lieved in the utopia of an art that would serve a class­less so­ci­e­ty. Their in­no­va­tive works, rang­ing from folk­lore to ab­s­trac­tion, have had a great in­flu­ence on art up to the pre­sent day. 

The term “Rus­sian Avant-Garde,” which was estab­lished in the West, ne­glects iden­ti­ties and tra­di­tions of artists who iden­ti­fied as be­long­ing to ter­ri­to­ries that are now (and in some cas­es al­so were at the time) in­de­pen­dent states. In par­tic­u­lar in Ukraine in the 1920s, af­ter the Bol­she­vik vic­to­ry over the coun­try, there were strong as­pi­ra­tions for auton­o­my. Like many others, artists such as Olex­an­­dra Ex­ter, Kaz­imir Male­vich, Olek­san­­dr Bo­ho­­ma­­zov, and Va­­syl Yer­milov be­longed to cir­cles of artists that tran­s­cend­ed bor­ders, yet their Ukrai­nian back­ground cont­in­u­al­ly fig­ured in their work and in their per­so­n­al lives. They marked the be­gin­n­ing of a Ukrai­nian tra­di­tion of vi­su­al art and found­ed schools in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Ode­sa.

Ab­s­tract Ten­den­cies

Mark Rothko’s bril­liant, med­i­ta­tive col­or fields, Frank Stel­la’s graph­ic pat­terned paint­ings, Jack­son Pol­lock’s fa­mous drip paint­ings, and Mor­ris Louis’s re­duced, col­or­ful stripes are just a few ex­am­ples from the Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s im­por­tant col­lec­tion of ab­s­tract ten­den­cies from the 1960s. Works by min­i­mal and con­cep­tu­al artists such as Do­n­ald Judd, Carl An­dre, and Eva Hesse as well as ab­s­tract sculp­tures by David Smith show that the col­lec­tion is not just limit­ed to paint­ings.

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig col­lec­tion al­so re­flects ear­li­er ab­s­tract ten­den­cies from the 1950s and 1960s in Eu­rope, such as Jean Dubuf­fet, Lu­cio Fon­ta­na, Pierre Sou­lages, Wols, and Hans Har­tung. Artists of the Ger­man Art In­formel move­ment such as K. O. Götz and Ber­nard Schultze, whose es­tate the Mu­se­um Lud­wig has kept since 2005, are al­so rep­re­sent­ed. With the most com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion of works by Ernst Wil­helm Nay in a mu­se­um, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig al­so holds an im­por­tant group of ab­s­tract paint­ings and draw­ings rang­ing from mod­er­nism to the post-war pe­ri­od.

Art from the Rhine­land

The his­to­ry of art in the Rhine­land re­gion is rep­re­sent­ed with key works by artists such as Joseph Beuys, An­dreas Gursky, Jörg Im­men­dorff, Can­di­da Höfer, Martin Kip­pen­berg­er, Sig­mar Polke, Ger­hard Richter, and Rose­marie Trock­el.

The Graph­ics Col­lec­tion

The graph­ics col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig com­pris­es some 3,000 draw­ings and near­ly 10,000 prints. One fo­cus is Ex­pres­sion­ism, and another is works by Pi­cas­so: in ad­di­tion to a large num­ber of draw­ings, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig al­so has all the artist’s se­ries of prints.

The col­lec­tion is cont­in­u­al­ly ex­pand­ed through purchas­es and do­na­tions ex­tend­ing up to the pre­sent. It now in­cludes the com­plete edi­tions of Mar­cel Broodthaers, Sig­mar Polke, Lu­cy McKenzie, and the Guer­ril­la Girls, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tive works by An­drea Bütt­n­er, Miri­am Cahn, Sis­ter Cori­ta, Lubai­na Himid, and many others.

Twen­ti­eth-Cen­tu­ry Artis­tic Move­ments and Me­dia

In ad­di­tion to th­ese fo­cus­es, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig of­fers an overview of the most im­por­tant artis­tic move­ments and me­dia of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.

The col­lec­tion in­cludes works of Ab­s­tract Ex­pres­sion­ism by Mark Rothko, Frank Stel­la, and Jack­son Pol­lock, Min­i­mal­ist and con­cep­tu­al artists such as Do­n­ald Judd, Carl An­dre, and Eva Hesse, Eu­ro­pean ten­den­cies from the 1950s and 1960s with artists such as Jean Dubuf­fet, Lu­cio Fon­ta­na, Pierre Sou­lages, Wols, and Hans Har­tung, as well as film and video art, in­s­tal­la­tions, and per­for­mance works from re­cent de­cades. The his­to­ry of art in the Rhine­land re­gion is rep­re­sent­ed with key works by artists such as Ger­hard Richter, Sig­mar Polke, Rose­marie Trock­el, and Martin Kip­pen­berg­er.  

The Pho­tog­ra­phy Col­lec­tion

With some 70,000 works, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig has an im­por­tant and ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy from the ear­ly days of the medi­um to the pre­sent, and is one of the first mu­se­ums of mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art to de­vote a se­parate col­lec­tion to pho­tog­ra­phy in 1977. (More about the pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig)

The pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion in­cludes ear­ly daguerreo­types, im­por­tant artis­tic pho­to­graphs rang­ing from the nine­teenth to the twen­ty-first cen­turies, al­bums, and port­fo­lios, as well as ex­ten­sive ma­te­rials on the cul­tu­r­al his­to­ry of the medi­um. Here, too, it was pri­vate col­lec­tors who laid the foun­da­tion for the pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tion in 1977 with purchas­es and do­na­tions from the col­lec­tion of L. Fritz and Re­nate Gru­ber, who main­tained close con­tacts with pho­to­g­ra­phers in Ger­many and abroad.

The col­lec­tion has been ex­pand­ed in­to the pre­sent in re­cent de­cades with purchas­es and do­na­tions of works by Jeff Wall, Tho­mas Ruff, Wolf­gang Till­mans, and Sh­er­rie Levine, to name just a few.

The Col­lec­tion To­day

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig al­so holds less­er-known works that are nonethe­less an im­por­tant part of the col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing artists from Afri­ca, Asia, and Latin Amer­i­ca such as Xu Bing, Kcho, Cai Guo-Qiang, Haegue Yang, Tere­sa Bur­ga, Bodys Isek Kin­gelez, and Ge­orges Adéag­bo, to name just a few.

This glob­al ori­en­ta­tion of the col­lec­tion will be­come in­creas­ing­ly im­por­tant in the fu­ture. The area of con­tem­po­rary art ex­tends to the pre­sent. It is cont­in­u­al­ly ex­pand­ed with new ac­qui­si­tions and do­na­tions, most re­cent­ly in­clud­ing works by Min­er­va Cue­vas, Dian­go Hernán­dez, Anne Imhof, Os­car Muril­lo, Av­ery Singer, Nil Yal­ter and Hei­mo Zobernig. Af­ter all, a col­lec­tion is nev­er com­plete.

On­line Col­lec­tion

You may find our col­lec­tion on­line here:­se­um-lud­wig.kul­